A citizens’ group opposed to the location of massive wind-energy plant in northern Potter County is pressuring Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to stop the plan.
However, with Gov. Rendell pushing for renewable energy projects in Pennsylvania, the “Save God’s Country” (SGC) group could face an uphill struggle.
An SGC spokesman said the location of wind turbines in the region is at odds with the governor’s strong support for the Pennsylvania Wilds tourist promotion plan. “Are hundreds of industrial wind turbines something that will tempt people to visit the Pennsylvania Wilds?” asked Dan Howe. “It seems incongruous, and yet this is what is happening in Potter, Cameron, McKean, Lycoming and Tioga counties, all designated as the Pennsylvania Wilds.”
SGC will present its case against the wind plant at a 7 p.m. meeting tonight in the Ulysses Fire Hall.
International energy giant AES Corp. wants to build the industrial wind plant, consisting of almost 80 windmills, on thousands of leased acres.
However, there’s a split in public opinion. Supporters see the massive turbines as symbols of energy independence, as well as a source of revenue and employment. They are joined by land owners in Ulysses and Hector townships who stand to benefit economically.
On the other side are those who see the wind plant as an aesthetic and environmental intrusion being plotted by a company taking advantage of state and federal tax breaks and other government incentives.
Property owners in the vicinity of the proposed wind plant form the backbone of SGC. They summarize their objections as follows: damaging health effects; noise pollution; negative impact on wildlife; declining property values; construction of new roads and underground transmission lines; shadow flicker; negative impact on tourism; visual intrusion on the landscape; and absence of any direct energy benefits for Potter County.
Members also warn of a broader strategy by AES and other companies to exploit the northcentral Pennsylvania counties with dozens of additional turbines, each of which occupies a five-acre plot and extends more than 400 feet into the air.
A National Fuel Gas Corp. subsidiary is studying sites in Cameron County for possible location of wind turbines. Initial assessments are taking place in the county’s northwest corner, off Route 46 in Shippen Township, between Emporium and Smethport.
Meanwhile, at least two companies have approached property owners in Potter County’s Hebron Township and the Dutch Hill area, located between Coudersport and Austin.
Wind energy companies also have contacted rural landowners in Tioga County to discuss leasing acreage for construction of turbines.
Mr. Howe said the wind companies are cloaking their multi-million-dollar commercial ventures behind a lofty goal of green energy.
“We support renewable energy, too, but there are better forms of it out there,” Mr. Howe said. “Wind power is not the best answer to weaning ourselves from burning fossil fuels since the wind is unpredictable and unreliable. Fossil-fuel-burning power plants must still be online.”
Mr. Howe also has claimed proponents of wind farms are overstating the facilities’ economic impact.
“Wind plants generate only about one job per 15 turbines and they are usually low-skill, low-wage jobs,” Mr. Howe said. “AES may take over paying the land owners’ property taxes but the county was already receiving those taxes anyway so it only really helps the land owner, not the county.”
Mr. Howe admitted that the private property rights issue raised by the wind plant proponents is thorny. “No one wants to be told what he can and cannot do with his own property. But the non-leasing land owners’ property will be affected too and they have rights as well,” he said. “What right does one neighbor have to diminish the value of his neighbors’ properties?”
Both sides will be encouraged to offer input or ask questions following tonight’s formal presentation.
By Paul Heimel
Special to Olean Times Herald
27 March 2007
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